Tag: nn-roundup-apr-2019

Questions about Dumbarton rail project answered

Kate Bradshaw, The Almanac, March 14, 2019

“SamTrans has entered into an exclusive 18-month partnership with Cross Bay Transit Partners — a partnership formed between Facebook and the infrastructure investment company Plenary Group — to explore the feasibility of reinstating passenger rail transit along the Dumbarton corridor.

“The exclusive negotiation agreement with Cross Bay Transit Partners [begins] an analysis to determine if it’s feasible to build and operate the project [and to] seek environmental clearances for it. Other firms, chosen through competitive bidding, would do the engineering work and construction.

“ ‘That’s all we have — an exclusive right to take a look,’ said Plenary Group Executive Chairman Dale Bonner. Cross Bay Transit Partners may decide the project is not feasible, or the public may come out in force to say it’s not appropriate, he added.

“The project would have to win approval from a wide array of agencies. It must comply with CEQA and the National Environmental Protection Act, and gain support by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Altamont Corridor Express rail system, and others.

“If all goes according to an ambitious timeline, the feasibility analysis and environmental certification could be completed by the first quarter of 2021. If SamTrans approves the EIR around that time, then finalizing a longer-term contract between Cross Bay Transit Partners and SamTrans — and agreements to design, build, operate and maintain the project — might allow construction to start in 2022.”

Read the full article here.

San Jose approves new building heights

Emily Deruy, The Mercury News, March 13, 2019

“San Jose’s squat skyline is set to rise in coming years. The ability to build upward will allow companies access to real estate in the sky that was previously off limits.

“The City Council voted unanimously to allow higher buildings downtown and near Diridon Station despite opposition from members of the airport commission and critics who worry the city is kowtowing to Google. ‘I think that history is going to show that this was a very devastating move for our airport,’ said Dan Connolly, chair of the airport commission.

“Under the new height limits, buildings downtown could rise between 5 and 35 feet. But near the SAP Center (110 feet), heights could more than double to 70–150 feet. That could add about 9.5 million square feet of development. It will be years before residents see taller structures, but the vote signals a major change in the density of the city’s core.

“Scott Knies, head of the San Jose Downtown Association, said the council has fixed stifling policy. Downtown, where construction costs and the price of land are sky high, Knies continued, a couple of stories could mean the difference between a developer deciding to move forward with a project and calling it off. And allowing Google and other developers to put office space and housing in the air clears the way for parks and public art [pedestrians] can enjoy.”

Read the full article here.

Destruction from sea level rise could exceed state’s worst wildfires and earthquakes

Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2019

• “In the most extensive study to date on sea level rise in California, researchers say damage by century’s could be far more devastating than the worst earthquakes and wildfires in state history.

“A team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists concluded that even a modest sea level rise could overwhelm communities when a storm hits at the same time.

“In the USGS study, published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, researchers [combined] models that examined wave action, tides, coastal erosion, and flooding in California under sea level rise scenarios ranging from 0 to 6.6 feet, then added four different storm scenarios: average daily conditions, typical annual storm, 20-year storm, and 100-year storm.

They then overlaid the dynamic model with population data, property assessments, and data from various state agencies, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense.

Translating sea level rise into economic risk and property loss advances a tricky issue that many communities have been reluctant to confront. A blockbuster study last year by the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed Zillow data and found that hundreds of thousands of homes across the nation are at risk of chronic flooding in the coming decades. A Stanford study found that downtown Annapolis, Maryland, lost 3,000 visits in 2017 due to high-tide ‘sunny-day’ flooding — as much as $172,000 in revenue for local businesses.

Read the full article here.

Large apartment project approved near San Leandro BART station

Peter Hegarty, East Bay Times, March 13, 2019

“A 5.73-acre site 1,000 feet from the San Leandro BART station will be transformed into a 687-unit apartment complex — one of the city’s largest. The site was once used by Caterpillar to store construction equipment.

“The plan calls for tearing down the Filarmonica Artista Amadora de San Leandro Music Conservatory at 857 Alvarado St. and replacing it with a 4,326-square-foot conservatory across the street.

“The Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustments unanimously approved the project.

“Existing buildings will be demolished to construct the 931,989-square-foot development consisting of a six-story building, one of five stories, and a shared underground garage with 892 parking spaces.

“ ‘It’s taking land that has been vacant since the 1980s and making it into what will be the densest housing development in San Leandro history,’ said former Mayor Stephen Cassidy.”

“Many developers have recently turned to San Leandro for new projects because of its pro-business attitude and wealth of vacant or underused sites, writes Hannah Norman in the San Francisco Business Times. ‘It’s one of the few communities that still has capacity with vacant properties and properties that need renewal,’ David Irmer, president of Sausalito-based Innisfree Co., told the Business Times last year. Innisfree’s 235,000-square-foot office park, completed in 2010, sits across the street from 899 Alvarado.

Andrew Mogensen, AICP, San Leandro’s planning manager, recently told the Business Times, ‘It’s an ideal site for transit-oriented development.’ ”

Read the full article here.

CEQA Review not required for project subject only to Design Review

Michele Chan, California Land Use and Development Report, March 12, 2019

 “The court of appeal held that the City of St. Helena did not violate CEQA by approving a demolition permit and design review for a multi-family residential project without preparing an environmental impact report. McCorkle Eastside Neighborhood Group v. City of St. Helena (2018) 31 Cal.App.5th 80. The court held that because the city’s discretion under its local design review ordinance did not extend to addressing the project’s environmental effects, CEQA review was unnecessary.

“In 2016, the city amended its zoning ordinance to eliminate the conditional use permit (CUP) requirement for multi-family dwellings within the High Density Residential (HR) districts. By eliminating the CUP requirement, multi-family dwelling units are permitted uses by right under the HR district, subject to design review.

“The court concluded that the Class 32 exemption was unnecessary and upheld the city’s actions, holding that the city properly found that its discretion was limited to design review, given that no use permit was required for multi-family housing in HR districts.

“The court summarily rejected the petitioner’s argument that because the city had discretion to conduct design review, the entire project was discretionary and subject to CEQA.”

Read the full article here.

Neighborhood-preference program for affordable housing proves effective

Dominic Fracassa, San Francisco Chronicle, March 7, 2019

 “A San Francisco program to protect people in close-knit neighborhoods from being uprooted by gentrification and soaring housing costs appears to be working.

“The Neighborhood Resident Housing Preference plan requires 40 percent of units in new affordable housing developments funded by the city and private sources to be reserved for people living in the same supervisorial district or within a half-mile of them.

“The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development’s progress report on the program shows it is within 1 percent of its target.

“The program ‘not only acknowledges that displacement happens, it acknowledges San Francisco’s diverse and unique neighborhoods,’ said Kate Hartley, director of the mayor’s housing office.

“Federal and state housing officials have long looked down on neighborhood preference legislation, viewing it as a vestige of racist housing policies, so the city was never able to use federal or state money for affordable projects that included neighborhood preference provisions.

“But this year, the state Department of Housing and Community Development shifted its policy. Now, San Francisco officials can use state funding on projects that reserve units for nearby residents — but only 25 percent of the units can be set aside.

“Karoleen Feng of the Mission Economic Development Agency said, ‘This is one of those programs everybody likes. It is a great anti-displacement tool: in addition to building the housing, it’s creating ways for people to come back’ to the neighborhood.”

Read the full article here.

Housing Action Planning effective in Santa Rosa

Kristen Pope, Planning magazine, March 2019

 “Long before Santa Rosa, California, lost 3,000 housing unitsfive percent of its housing — the city spent a year developing a comprehensive Housing Action Plan (HAP).

“The Plan, officially released [in October 2016], endeavors to build 5,000 units by 2023, half at market rate and half in the affordable to lower or moderate range. Additionally, the city seeks to preserve 4,000 affordable units.

“The city was moving forward with implementation [when] the Tubbs wildfire roared through, destroying 3,000 housing units. ‘Our Housing Action Plan has had to evolve,’ said Clare Hartman, AICP, deputy director for planning in Santa Rosa’s Planning & Economic Development Department.

“An urgency ordinance helped streamline the permitting process. The city is also encouraging the development of accessory dwelling units and downtown residential units.

“ADUs are a key part of Santa Rosa’s housing strategy because they meet a HAP goal (‘affordable by design’) and also fulfill the city’s requirements to provide moderate income units under the city’s state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

“A key step? Removing regulatory obstacles to ADUs, including one of the largest: fees.

“Prior to 2018, impact fees for a 750-square-foot ADU topped out at $22,000. Today, fees total just $4,000. The city also reduced setback and parking requirements. The results: [From] an average of six ADU permits issued per year, owners last year applied to add 118 small living spaces adjacent to traditional single-family residences.”

Read the full article here.

Too late for ousted residents, Palo Alto denies hotel application

The President Hotel, Palo Alto, one of the taller buildings along University Avenue, opened in 1929. Photo: Naphtali Knox, FAICP, March 11, 2019.

By Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly, updated March 11, 2019.

“A proposal to convert the President Hotel Apartments to a luxury hotel hit a roadblock this week, when Palo Alto’s Planning Director Jonathan Lait concluded that the project described in the development application would violate numerous zoning laws.

“The controversial project, which prompted the eviction of about 100 residents from the historic building at 488 University Avenue, does not comply with the city’s parking laws and its retail-preservation requirements, Lait stated in a rejection letter issued to the project developer. The project also violates a recently revised law that bans the conversion of downtown’s ‘grandfathered’ buildings from residential to non-residential use. ‘It appears other items will conflict with the zoning code absent project modifications,’ he wrote. These include regulations relating to retail, off-street parking requirements, and the ‘building envelope.’ ‘Furthermore, there are no provisions for a commercial parking reduction available to this property,’ Lait wrote.

[The developer] “had proposed converting 75 apartments into 100 guest rooms and seismically retrofitting the historic building.”

Read the full article here.